Here's your recap roundup from last night's 89-74 Wizards win over the Nets. Be sure to check out our Storystream and head over to Monumental Network for postgame interviews with Randy Wittman, John Wall, Nene, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster.
The Washington Wizards wanted to remove all doubt erase any suspense, and avoid finding themselves in any situation that remotely resembled their last meeting with the Brooklyn Nets. That heartbreaking double-overtime loss last month was still fresh on their minds as they unleashed more solid team play, more spectacular plays from John Wall, more marksmanship from Martell Webster, more interior dominance from Nene, and more suffocating defense to deliver a decisive 89-74 defeat to another playoff contender at Verizon Center.
Washington Wizards fans will never know how this 2012-13 campaign would have played out under more favorable circumstances. If John Wall hadn't missed the first 33 games with a knee injury. If Nene hadn't been limited by a foot ailment. If all had gone as planned.
But to Wall, one thing is certain: This would have been a playoff team. In his mind, in fact, it still could be.
"Everybody knows what team we would be like," the point guard said. "We're showing teams now."
In holding Brooklyn to just 74 points Washington has now held opponents under 100 points in eight straight games and 16 of their last 18. But the Nets didn't go quietly. After trailing by as many as 23 they cut that deficit down to 11 in the fourth quarter. Back on January 4th the Wizards held a late lead over the Nets before ultimately falling 115-113 in double overtime. But the Wizards weren't concerned with the past in Friday's win.
Oddly enough, one of the most valuable players for the Wizards at the start of the second half was Andray Blatche. Sure, every time Wizards fans booed him with all their might, it seemed to put an extra jump in the Wizards' steps - if only for a few moments. More importantly, however, Blatche missed all four of his free throws at a time when the Nets could have taken control of the game.
The Nets attempted to make a comeback in the third quarter, but the Wizards defense held strong and fought through the entire 48 minutes. At the beginning of the season, this might have been one of the monumental "Fourth Quarter Collapse" headlines, but tonight, this was a team who was as confident as ever in their defense against a Brooklyn squad who could not find the rim to save their lives.
The Wizards won with what has become a familiar giant killer formula. First, apply suffocating defense (Brooklyn shot 32.9% on the game). Second, convert those defensive stops to a decisive edge in fast break points (Washington outscored Brooklyn on the fast break 16-6). Next, feed the ball inside (Nene scored 20 points on 13 shots). Finally, shoot three's at a very healthy clip to stop the defense from packing the paint (the Wizards shot 43% from beyond the arc). The result? A double digit win over another cream of the crop eastern conference playoff team.
A few wins have raised spirits, but the Wizards had earned the right to feel good about themselves after sweeping the Los Angeles Clippers, New York and Brooklyn - all teams with at least 29 wins - and winning the three games by a combined 33 points. The Clippers didn't have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but the Knicks came to town on a five-game winning streak and the Nets entered the game with an impressive 18-1 record against teams with losing records.
In the second, the Nets' struggles continued. They were out-scored 14-1 in the first six minutes of the quarter, shooting 0-of-9 from the floor. It was as ugly live as it reads on paper. With six minutes to go in the second, the Nets found themselves down 35-21. P.J. Carlesimo called a timeout to give the Nets a change to regroup, but it didn't work. The Nets went another three minutes without a field goal, finally getting their first (from Brook Lopez) 8.5 minutes into the second quarter -- to stop a Wizards 22-2 run.
The Nets (29-21) shot 32.9 percent from the field, committed 15 turnovers and did little to contain Wall, a turbocharged point guard who collected 15 points, 9 assists and 4 steals. It was the third straight win for the Wizards (14-35), a much-improved team since Wall's return from injury last month.
Whether or not they considered it a big game, the Nets (29-21) simply couldn't get out of first gear against the Wizards, particularly in a horrific second quarter when virtually nothing good happened for them. In a performance that ranked among their worst in a single quarter this season, they were outscored 30-11 after missing their first 12 shots in the quarter, and gave up an initial 19-2 run before Brook Lopez finally broke the scoring drought with a layup with 3:36 remaining.
Carlesimo said of the Wizards, "I thought they were aggressive. They doubled us and I guess they contested inside, because we had shots in the paint and we just didn't finish. It's silly to say that it's shots we make, that guys normally make and we didn't make them tonight. You have to give them credit.
"As you said, we didn't make shots. Guys had threes, guys had shots in the paint, guys had free throws. Outside free throws, I'm sure Washington's defense had something to do with it.''
On one revealing play in the second quarter, Wall ran past two lollygagging Nets for a loose ball and dribbled down the court for an easy dunk. He also dribbled through the lane and dished off a behind-the-back pass to Trevor Ariza for a dunk in the fourth.
Obviously, when a team scores 74 points, it is difficult to win. And the Nets really did nothing well offensively tonight, even when they made their small run in the third quarter. For the game, Brooklyn shot under 33% from the field, under 28% from 3, and under 60% from the foul line. Although they had 21 more free throw attempts than the Wizards, they did not take advantage of getting to the foul line. Had Brooklyn made all of its foul shots, they would have only lost by 2. Additionally, Brooklyn committed 15 turnovers and was very sloppy handling the ball. This might have been the worst we have seen the Nets play offense this season.